DUNDEE, Ore.—We are sitting in the kitchen of the Sokol Blosser Winery with vintner Bill Blosser, hailed as one of the pioneers to bring the fine points of making pinot noir to the Willamette Valley.
It’s our second winery of the day. We started off nearby at Winderlea Vineyard, sampling nearly wine from French-made barrels in the company of owner Donna Morris, tasting room manager Reid Oliver (below) and a pair of resident Australian Labradoodles.
Both these wineries produce high-end pinots, and both offer electric vehicle charging. During our visit, they were preparing for the “Plug & Pinot Electric Vehicle Tour and Tasting,” scheduled from April 22 (Earth Day) through April 27. Four plug-equipped wineries are involved, and the idea is that EV owners will get free tastings as they also top off their electric tanks.
Writer Jim Motavalli with his wife, Mary Ann, at Astoria's Fort George Brewery and House in Oregon.
In Oregon, they’re seeing the potential. The state is the first in the nation to have a state EV officer, the energetic Ashley Horvat. I was a bit disappointed that she doesn’t have a uniform or the power to arrest non-EV drivers parking in EV spots, but she has an ambitious agenda nonetheless. Luckily, the state is full of fun things to do, like tasting homemade stouts (as we were above.)
Visit the website, and there are five full-tilt itineraries for touring the far reaches of the state by EV. Enterprise and others offer electric car rentals — and you don’t have worry about range anxiety. There are fast-charging stations (a half hour to full) every 30 to 60 miles in the almost-complete network, with more than 100 stops at Fred Meyer store parking lots and berry pie restaurants.
Horvat and Harry Dalgaard of Travel Oregon, who accompanied my wife and I around the state, are the two masterminds behind the concept of EV vacations. These include a skiing trip, a hiking tour of the Oregon coast, an excursion to see Portland’s boutiques, and a visit to cider makers. If those doesn’t meet your needs, there are 170 more suggestions.
We traveled from EV-intensive Portland due west to the coast. The charging stops were uneventful, meaning the Leaf performed just fine. Usually, we cruised to the chargers with 20 miles or so in reserve, and headed out with 80 miles of range. Horvat, who masterminded installation of the fast-charging network, tried to ensure there were things to do at each half-hour stop — coffee trucks, restaurants and restrooms. The charging network isn’t quite done, but when it is, the entire 360-mile coast — which is placid in the summer, but quite wild in the winter — will be accessible.
Once you’re out of Portland and delightful smaller cities like Astoria, Oregon gets rural very quickly. The wineries moved into an agricultural valley that, among other things, specialized in making prunes. It’s all spectacularly beautiful, with lichens clinging to the tall trees.
But it becomes obvious that the twin loss of logging and fish canneries has hurt the country economies, so tourism is a godsend. Dalgaard said that Travel Oregon is concentrating on opening up depressed regions to visitors, an effort that just won a “Leader in Sustainable Tourism” award from National Geographic Traveler and the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International.
No, EVs aren’t going to single-handedly transform Oregon. If anything, the state is even more nuts about bicycles, bicycle touring and even bicycle commerce — delivering mattresses? Yes, sir! — than it is about plug-in cars. But Oregon already has 4,000 EVs (half Leafs, with Volts and the Tesla Model S coming on strong) on the road, and a robust public charging network. We stayed at the venerable Heathman Hotel in Portland, and it had no less than four chargers in a nearby parking garage.
Dinner last night was at the Joel Palmer House in Dayton, where the owner, Christopher Czarnecki, does incredibly creative things with wild mushrooms. And electric cars. He drives a red Leaf with “FUNGI” license plates (that's it above) and, yes, the restaurant has twin-pole 240-volt charging. Both our small party and the car left full up.
Here's video that will confirm Oregon's love affair with EVs: a trip to Portland's Electric Avenue:
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